In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent high-profile scandals, terror financing etc, global regulators are increasingly putting financial institutions’ AML and KYC procedures, policies and technologies under the microscope. This is clearly reflected in the significant monetary penalties that have been imposed on financial institutions worldwide for anti-money laundering violations.
Inadequate customer due diligence procedures and the lack of cohesive, global AML compliance programs were commonly cited as major failings of the penalized institutions. While the horizons of this topic are broad, we will limit the scope of this article to the usage of Open-source intelligence (OSINT) in AML investigations. OSINT primarily helps in getting insights by processing and analyzing public data sources such as social media, news (articles, tv, radio), watch lists, sanction lists, and various other websites/channels.
How does OSINT help an AML case investigator?
While performing AML investigations, the insights gathered by Open source intelligence would greatly help in analyzing different relationships of a case and it also helps in obtaining primary and secondary information related to the investigation that could corroborate the evidence/hypothesis.
Various criminal/terror organizations adapt to sophisticated approaches in order to hide/skip from the radar of investigators. However, often some digital traces are left, and investigators equipped with OSINT would have a better edge to perform an in-depth analysis and identify the hidden problem and avoid illicit/harmful activities such as terror financing and money laundering from happening. Though, Financial institutions may not have the rich capabilities to gather in-depth data that Counter Terror Financing agencies do. However, they do have the power to block illegal/suspicious transactions and allow the assessment of data that might have links to money laundering or illicit networks/terror financing, etc.
In order to improve efficiency investigators can use OSINT investigation tools. This will allow the case investigator to work on quality data/analyzing insights instead of doing operational work of crawling and searching information on the web and other places. The AI-driven automation capabilities adapted by the OSINT tools will allow investigators to get large volumes of relevant data about a case in place that would allow the investigator to focus solely on investigating the insights and assessing the situation.
While various OSINT tools use various techniques in order to fetch information. We will illustrate some of the basic features of Complidata’s AI-driven OSINT tool below.
The basic OSINT tool:
Look for individuals/entities on search engines to find relevant connections/links
Look at sanction lists, watch lists, pep lists, government registries etc
Look at various social media channels
Look on the dark web
Conducts social network analysis
Once the entire scrutiny is done, it generates a detailed report with all the relevant data points so that the case investigator can review and proceed with the investigation.
Looking at internal data sources:
In addition to the above-mentioned steps, one of the major reliable sources that FIs could get information about a case is their internal database and CRMs. Having these internal databases connected could help in getting adequate context about a case through internal reliable sources. Further to this, one can build a network analysis that further gives an in-depth analysis of the network of an individual/entity based on various parameters.
As online information continues to multiply in volume and complexity, the tools required to find, sift through, authenticate and preserve that information become more and more important for investigators. Every investigator needs the skills and knowledge to use OSINT competently in investigations. Failure to master these tools to tap into the rich resources on the web can hamper the investigations.